We play Skoda Xanthi today, at home, in the 21st matchday of the season. I hope for a decent game today however Xanthi have been nothing short of mediocre all season and our own style of play since Christmas has been pretty rotten too (although we are still picking up the points). After our elimination from the Greek Cup, I hope to see a transformation in our team and that we will start to play as a team of champions.It is a bright sunny afternoon, the stadium is about three quarters full, the fans at either end are in voice so lets get a victory here and restore some belief in our team. The game takes place after a minutes tribute to the victims of 8th February.
We kick the game off and spend the first few minutes trying to put our stamp onto the game. However, we fail to do this quickly and even after the first five minutes or so, the ball is still bobbling about midfield. We de have some build up play developing, including a cross from the left courtesy of Riera and a long shot on goal from Fuster which is easily saved but generally we don't make anything of note. Possibly our best build up play of this period is an over the top to Pantelic which is tackled out for a penalty but that really is all.
Even after the ten minute mark, we still have not taken control of the game and we are still pushing it around in midfield, losing possession then regaining it later. We are however getting the ball well into the Xanthi half and building up play not too far away from their goal. It is unfortunate then that our passing into the box is too reliant on the long ball and these passes are being cleared too often from play. Xanthi for their part have been pretty terrible, they've created very little offensively and they seem content at the minute to reign injury and park 10 men in the box.
One of our better chances in the half comes in the 25th minute when Riera pumps a free kick into the box from the centre of the pitch. Modesto is found on the end of the pass and he heads on goal only to see his effort hit the corner of the bar and go over and out. This effort is followed up with more confident shots on goal from our players, hardly any on target but at least we are making the chances now.
As the half continues, we are making some better chances on the Xanthi goal and more frequent chances too, the game looks like a goal is coming despite Xanthi's desperate defending. We are now dragging the ball forward and further up the pitch with each attack and we are unlucky not to be awarded an penalty in the 36th minute when Torosidis is dragged down in the box. We follow this up with a close range chance from Zairi on goal but then have to rush back to our own goalmouth when Pardo needs to make two cracking saves to avoid conceding a goal from a Xanthi counter attack.
Apart from this chance, there is nothing heard from Xanthi for the rest of the half and we go back to our play of attacking the Xanthi goal and we finally get the goal! A cross from Torosidis on the right hand side of the pitch is met by the head of Fuster at the edge of the 6 yard box, it is a quality nod from him and Xanthi concede the all important goal on the stroke of halftime.
When Xanthi kick off the second half, it does not take long for us to take over once again. We immediately attack the Xanthi goalmouth and narrowly avoid doubling our lead with a scramble in the 6 yard box which Xanthi eventually clear. Back at our end of the pitch, Pardo has to intervene oce again in a one-on-one situation when Xanthi break through our line. More end to end play sees the Xanthi keeper having to clear off the line after we come close again. It seems another goal could well be coming.... ...unfortunately it isn't coming as yet although we come agonisingly close on occasion. One of the best chances being a free kick taken on the edge of the area, passed short to Torosidis (unmarked) and then shot on goal only to see the keeper deflect it behind for a corner.
We make our first substitution in the 65th minute with Fetfatzidis replacing Zairi and right at the same minute as we make another good effort on goal with Modesto's header going wide of goal (quick stat : Olympiakos has 12 shots on goal to Xanth's 3). The substitution seems to brighten up our play quality on the right wing and this leads in turn to more chances being made on the Xanthi goal. We seem to be firing shots off at goal and passing around the 6 yard box with impunity, only the desperate last ditch defending from Xanthi avoiding the goals.
Our second substitution is made ten minutes after with Marko Pantelic leaving the pitch to applause to allow Rafik Djebbour to replace him. It doesn't take long for Djebbour to make his mark on the match, with a run into the box which threatens to increase the score but the subsequent shot is tipped wide and we are frustrated in front of goal again. Despite our frustrations though, we continue attacking whilst we ready our final substitution (Dudu - replacing Fuster) on the sidelines.
Now that we are in the last five minues of normal play, Xanthi change tack and throw everything but the kitchen sink at us to try to grab an equaliser. This leads to us playing a bit further down the pitch and not pressing their goal as much as we have been doing. We are holding up the ball well though and limiting Xanthi's final chances as we get into the three minutes of additional time. In fact, Xanthi are well marked out of the game and unable to create anything as the final whistle goes and we win 1-0 in a relatively easy (but low scoring) match.
Olympiakos 1-0 Skoda Xanthi
Olympiakos : Pardo, Torosidis, Mellberg, Bravo, Holebas, Modesto, Riera, Ibagaza, Zairi (66' Fetfatzidis), Fuster (86' Dudu), Pantelic (76' Djebbour)
Xanthi : Gspurning, Adefemi, Kostoulas, Vallas, Stuart, Vasilakakis (60' Kintara), Poy, Fliskas (78' Boateng), Komesidis, Souanis (74' Kazakis), Katongo
Yellow Cards : 57' Riera - 20' Katongo, 34' Vasilokakis, 64' Fliskas